In all of the years I've been taking my adult cat to the vet, any vet, he has never misbehaved and been complimented on his demeanor and compliance. When COVID hit and Taunton Cat Hospital switched to their "car-side care" model of not allowing me in with him during his annual check-up, he had predictable stress-related behavior and was difficult with the veterinarians due to me not being by his side. This lead to an apparently permanent note being added to his file and Taunton Cat Hospital upselling my girlfriend on Gabapentin medication.
I refused to take him back until I could be present during the check-ups again. Taunton Cat Hospital recently reverted their COVID policy and I was allowed in with him. Upon arrival and check-in I was immediately asked if he had been given Gabapentin, to which I replied no, and then was told that "if he didn't behave I'd have to reschedule" for another time and bring him in doped up.
Then for the first time in my visits to Taunton Cat Hospital, a second assistant remained in the exam room with the Veterinarian and I was not allowed to hold my cat during his exam, or when his rabies shot was being administered. He growled slightly and hissed when the stethoscope was inserted deep into his ears, which is something he's never been comfortable with - but did not swat, scratch, or bite in any fashion. I emphasized that he would be more docile and less-stressed if I was able to hold him when his shot was administered - to which I was told that the assistant was "professionally trained to hold cats" and that "he might bite, and if he bites you that creates a liability for us." So...my own cat, biting me, which has never happened, would be a liability issue for Taunton Cat Hospital, and for that reason someone else my cat doesn't know or trust and is exhibiting more stress-related behaviors because of, must therefore restrain him during his annual rabies shot which has never been an issue before. Not holding him was not presented as a COVID-related concern, and I remained as close as possible to him for his comfort during the entire exam. My previous veterinarian office always allowed me to hold my cat during the administration of his rabies shot and he never even noticed the shots as long as I held him.
After the exam was completed I was given a lecture on all of the reasons I should dope my cat up before bringing him to the vet (which had never been suggested, recommended, or required by Taunton Cat Hospital or any other veterinarian PRIOR to the "car-side care" visit I wasn't allowed to be at), and it was implied that they would not see my cat again without him being loaded up on Gabapentin, despite his good behavior during this visit.
I suggest Taunton Cat Hospital take a long hard look at their records and see how many cats received notes in their files for Gabapentin for the first time ONLY AFTER your "car-side care" policy went into effect. I will not be unnecessarily giving my cat anti-anxiety drugs for routine check-ups, and my cat and I will not be returning to Taunton Cat Hospital for any future care.
Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention. As a feline-only hospital, we strive to provide the kindest and most up-to-date care for cats. We follow the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the International Society of Feline Medicine's feline-friendly handling guidelines. Our policies and recommendations are designed in the best interest of staff, clients, and most of all, the patient and we apologize for any misunderstandings. If you would like to further discuss your experience, please call our hospital manager, Tiffany, at (508) 824-2287.